Anshul Ruparell has raised a significant amount of financing and capital for his venture that is transforming one of the biggest and most entrenched markets: real estate.
During our time on the DealMakers Podcast, Ruparell shared with our audience how he was inspired to entrepreneurship, spent time on both sides of the table as a startup investor and founder, and the pattern recognition he has picked up on the way. Plus, what he has learned about picking co-founders and investors, pivoting a business, and the importance of extreme focus.
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Born Into Entrepreneurship
Anshul Ruparell was raised in the Canadian city of Calgary. It’s the city his parents landed in upon immigrating from Africa.
He saw his parents and grandparents and other family members throwing themselves into entrepreneurship in a completely new environment.. In addition to adjusting to bitter winters when temperatures can drop below minus 40 degrees, they built their own businesses from the ground up in a new place with a new culture. In many ways, that in itself is just what throwing yourself into a startup is all about.
His family was mostly involved in entrepreneurial pursuits within the real estate industry. He saw them build something from nothing, and all of the hard work, hustle, and grit required to make it happen. He saw the failures and pain, and the successes and rewards. It inspired him.
Starting On The Other Side Of The Table
It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to become successful, exit their companies and go spend some time investing, before coming back to operating on the front lines again.
Anshul did it in reverse. After his undergrad, he went right into banking. It just seemed like the next natural step after school.
He put in the usual grueling stint in investment banking. Then transitioned to private equity. He got to see both ends of the financing cycle, from evaluating companies and their management teams to funding and operating more mature companies. He was able to see companies fail horribly and succeed fantastically.
Anshul says he knew he wanted to do something entrepreneurial himself, he just wasn’t sure what or in what capacity yet. So, he decided to pursue his MBA at Columbia in NYC. One that would allow him to be in school one day a week, and work the rest of the week, and better figure out what he really wanted to do.
He tried working in operations, marketing, and product. Then he met serial entrepreneur and investor Fabrice Grinda. Cofounder of his own venture capital fund, FJ Labs, Fabrice is one of the most respected names in the startup ecosystem. He was also one of our first guests on the Dealmakers Show. Make sure you check out his episode for all the details of his story.
Grinda recruited Anshul to go to learn how to invest in startups and to help build them. He would meet with early-stage founders raising their seed rounds, and help support them after they got funded.
Through all of these experiences, Ruparell saw a lot of patterns of both successful and failing companies, and what is required to truly go from zero to one.
Perhaps the most important is to be sure you are creating a painkiller, not a vitamin. Successful startups go out to solve existing problems that their customers are searching for solutions for. They don’t try to invent a solution, and then go try to force it into the market and find a problem to apply it to.
One unique thing he mentioned that many overlook, is that while assessing market opportunity is important, the path to capturing that market may need to be an indirect one when you are an early-stage company.
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Most important he says is ensuring you have the team that is capable of remaining resilient enough to survive and champion all of the adversity that is going to come.
Of course, aside from investors, cofounders are probably the most significant part of this team. When it comes to picking cofounders, Anshul highlights how vital it is to pick, not only for their high caliber of skills, but also for complementary skill sets.
Know your strengths. Bring in help to fill the gaps. Otherwise, you are going to have gaping weaknesses in your company, or will be creating friction and tension internally, and unnecessarily.
Specifically, Anshul says your cofounders should demonstrate obsession with the customer and understanding their needs and pain points. It’s about designing for the customer, not yourselves.
They also need to be great salespeople. You won’t just be tasked with selling your product, but selling investors on funding you, and top talent on working with you.
Three years ago Calgary was going through some tough economic times. It is a city highly reliant on the oil industry. When oil prices dip, it has a big local impact.
One of the big problems this highlighted was how outdated the Canadian real estate industry was. It was still even behind the US in terms of modernization. It was inefficient, opaque, stressful, and expensive for homeowners to move to a new place and sell their old one.
That could have been partially because no one had stepped to change it yet, but also because this industry like banking and finance has largely been designed to be that way, instead of any consideration being given to UX.
This spawned Anshul’s startup Properly. A venture that helps people buy and sell homes in Canada. One with a vision of becoming a full one-stop-shop for the entire process, and enrolling everyone in the country as a customer.
So far they’ve already raised $100M in debt financing and $15M in equity capital to make it happen too.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Anshul Ruparell was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more including:
- How Properly is transforming the real estate transaction
- How to pick your investors
- Going through a major pivot
- Debt versus equity fundraising
- The importance of real focus